Hooray for the Cheerleaders

Did you ever read or hear something, then scratch your head and say, "what the heck was that about?"

It has happened to me twice this week.

Item one. All these highbrow TV bosses upset about their reporters and anchors wearing flag pins or ribbons on the air. A couple of network honchos have stopped it — one saying it, "compromises our objectivity."

Item two. A page one, banner story in the Wall Street Journal blasting Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for being too much of a cheerleader.

First on the pin thing.  Maybe it's me, but I have to tell you that I'm a journalist — and I hope a fairly decent one — but I'm an American first.  I'm not ashamed to say that. And I don't think I'm compromising a damn thing believing that, showing that, echoing that.

And as an American, I don't have a problem with the Treasury Secretary of the United States saying good things about our economy and our markets.

He's the face of our economy — the poster child for the capitalism that is our lifeblood.  He'd be nuts not to talk it up!

So what the heck does Journal columnist David Wessel mean when he lambastes O'Neill for ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange when trading resumed last week? As if it were unseemly for him to be there.  He writes, "people don't take cheerleaders seriously."

I do, Mr. Wessel. I found it comforting and reassuring that O'Neill was there, telling us all — showing us all — that capitalism has not stopped and that the terrorists have failed.

Why don't you?  Because it's tacky or inappropriate to be upbeat or sing the praises of this market or economy?  Come on!

Frankly, we could use more Paul O'Neills out there. Folks who are gutsy enough to tell it like it is and gladly wear their patriotic emotions on their sleeves.  Folks who mean what they say and say what they mean.

So what if he predicts stocks will recover and that we might look to these dark days as the buying opportunities of a lifetime? I so happen to think he's right.

But that's not important. The role he plays — a positive one — is.

But no, God forbid we break from cookie cutter molds.  God forbid we have a treasury secretary who's quirky enough to speak his mind and tell it like it is.  Who has the guts to question international rescue packages than simply sign the check and forget about them!  Are we so caught up in image that we forget reality?

Here's what I say: shut up and listen up.

I'd much prefer someone talking up something than dumping on something.

Some of you say that makes me a Pollyanna.  Well, you're right.  Because on this point, I am "not" objective.  I believe in us, our future, our markets and our economy.   And I believe in the power of a smile, a positive sentiment and even a garish display of patriotism.

Tacky, you say?  Maybe so.  But here's what I say: We could do a lot worse than have folks who dare to say we will do a lot better.

We will. But that's just me.

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